Why did we raise $10m?

Engineering | Rod Johnson | June 06, 2007 | ...

You may have heard the announcement that Interface21, the company behind Spring, recently raised $10m dollars. Given that we've been around for almost 3 years, and have achieved a lot to date, you might wonder why.

Why did we raise money and what are we going to do with it?

Over the last two years, we've built a great team. Juergen Hoeller, Adrian Colyer, Keith Donald, Colin Sampaleanu, Mark Pollack, Ben Alex, Rob Harrop… It's scary to to start typing that list because I know that I can't include all the talented technologists in this company, and I don't want to imply any ordering of merit... This team is amazing.

We've driven Spring from 1.0 through 2.0 to Spring 2.1 M2. We've enabled Spring Web Flow to become a mature, capable product. We've created Spring Web Services, Pitchfork, Spring OSGi and the other Spring Portfolio projects… We've ensured that Spring remains one of the finest pieces of Java software available. We're run the Spring Experience and SpringOne conferences.

We've trained thousands of developers in many countries. We've opened offices in North America, the UK, Europe and Australia. We've gained hundreds of customers including nearly all the world's 15 largest banks.

We've done well. But the software we created has done better. The Spring Framework has become ubiquitous: cited by a leading analyst as being used by most enterprise Java respondents, and being embraced by more and more enterprise vendors. Spring has become core to enterprise Java. And that central importance deserves a significant middleware vendor to support it and help it reach its ultimate potential.

We need to invest more and grow to be that middleware vendor.

From the outside, our progress on product development looks impressive. (OK, it is impressive.) But we can do better. Take Spring Web Services. Arjen Poutsma, the talented creator of that software, has had to be highly billable across Northern Europe, in the last year to put bread on the table. (Thanks Arjen, we appreciate your hard work and our customers love you.) But there was a cost to that. Progress on Spring Web Services slowed. We had many customers who were excited about its promise, but were concerned it was losing momentum. I'm sure that in the wider community, many people felt like that as well. Arjen had to sacrifice personal time to keep the project moving. Recently we've seen Spring Web Services progressing rapidly toward 1.0 final. We've seen the documentation that many users have asked for. We've seen every bug resolved in 1.0RC1. This has happened because we knew we could count on funding, and we could afford to give Arjen the time to focus on development. Going forward, we want to be able to pay our developers to focus on developing code for hundreds of thousands of users, rather than merely providing services for hundreds of customers.

Another example: Acegi Security for Spring. The best enterprise Java security solution available, this is a great product, with two reservations: it's relatively hard to use, and hasn't yet taken advantage of Spring 2.0's configuration enhancements; and most people can't pronounce its name. (It's “a-See-Gee” with a short “a”, but that soon won't matter.) Funding has enabled us to do the work to address both of these things. We've put Vishal Puri (a senior engineer in Interface21 Australia) onto security development to assist Acegi Security creator Ben Alex, who joined Interface21 last year. You'll soon be seeing some Spring 2.0 namespaces that make Acegi much easier to get started with and much more elegant to configure. And we finally have time to rebrand Acegi Security to Spring Security so that everyone knows that it's integral to the Spring Portfolio, that Interface21 will support it, and so that you don't have to learn how to pronounce it.

Both of these are win-win-wins. Direct benefits for the Spring community (who get better software); our customers (who get better solutions to their business needs); and us (we make more money because the better our software is the more people use it and the more potential customers we have).

So what's going to change now that we have funding? Our values will remain the same. This is an established company with an established culture and values. However, you will see significantly better execution, in product development, sales and marketing. The Spring Portfolio has already achieved a lot, and you ain't seen nuthin yet. You'll see more sample applications; more articles explaining how to succeed with Spring; and a faster time to implement the features you want. Come to SpringOne in Antwerp later this month (June 20-22) and you'll see how fast we're moving with our technology and hear about where we're going.

Oh, and we'll finally have enough sales people to make sure that you know how our Spring support and training can reduce your costs and make you more successful, and make sure that your CIO realises why Spring can save your company money. But regardless of whether you spend money with Interface21, you'll benefit from Benchmark's money.

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